5G Ultra Wideband, 5G UC, 5G Plus: Don’t fall for the carrier marketing fluff

5G explained

5G is right here, it is time to perceive it.


It could have taken a while, however 5G is slowly beginning to construct momentum within the US. All main carriers now have nationwide 5G deployments masking no less than 200 million folks, with T-Cellular within the lead masking over 305 million folks with its low-band community. AT&T’s model now covers 250 million whereas Verizon has a low-band community that covers round 230 million. All of the top phones of the past year come with 5G, together with the iPhone 12, iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S21

Subsequent-generation networks from all the most important carriers are set to continue to expand throughout the rest of 2021 and nicely into 2022, laying the muse for developments similar to changing residence broadband, distant surgical procedure and self-driving cars which might be anticipated to dominate the following decade. 

However with all that exercise by competing carriers, there are myriad completely different names for 5G — a few of which are not truly 5G. 

The carriers have had a historical past of twisting their tales in terms of wi-fi know-how. When 4G was simply coming round, AT&T and T-Mobile opted to rebrand their 3G networks to reap the benefits of the hype. In the end the business settled on 4G LTE. One know-how, one identify.

Differing applied sciences and approaches for presenting 5G, nevertheless, have made this upcoming revolution extra complicated than it ought to be. Here is a information to assist make sense of all of it. 

Know the three flavors

On the subject of 5G networks, there are three completely different variations that it is best to find out about. Whereas all are accepted as 5G — and Verizon, AT&T and T-Cellular have pledged to make use of a number of flavors going ahead for extra sturdy networks — every provides you with completely different experiences. 


Verizon’s 5G speeds in NYC are spectacular, but it surely’s nonetheless in restricted areas. 

Eli Blumenthal/CNET

Millimeter-wave: Excessive pace, however with a draw back

The primary taste is named millimeter-wave (aka mmWave). This know-how has been deployed over the course of the final two years by Verizon, AT&T and T-Cellular, although it is most notable for being the 5G network Verizon has touted across the country

Utilizing a a lot increased frequency than prior mobile networks, millimeter-wave permits for a blazing-fast connection that in some cases reaches well over 1Gbps. The draw back? That increased frequency struggles when covering distances and penetrating buildings, glass and even leaves. It additionally has had some issues with heat

In impact, outdoors of some 5G-equipped stadiums, airports and arenas, these protection areas could also be no greater than an intersection. One answer is to string extra mobile radios, however in lots of locations, that is not an possibility. For now, consider it as a souped-up Wi-Fi hotspot. 

Low-band: A number of vary, however decrease speeds

Low-band 5G is the muse for all three suppliers’ nationwide 5G choices. Whereas at instances a bit sooner than 4G LTE, these networks do not supply the identical loopy speeds that higher-frequency applied sciences like millimeter-wave can present. The excellent news, nevertheless, is that this community features equally to 4G networks by way of protection, permitting it to blanket giant areas with service. It must also work high-quality indoors. 


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As talked about, T-Cellular at the moment blankets over 305 million folks with its low-band 5G community, whereas Verizon reaches over 230 million and AT&T covers over 250 million folks with their respective 5G networks. 

Midband: The center floor of pace and protection

Sprint 5G

The V50 ThinQ was LG and Dash’s first 5G telephone.

Lynn La/CNET

In between the 2, midband is the center space of 5G: sooner than the low band, however with extra protection than millimeter-wave. This was the know-how behind Sprint’s early 5G rollout and one of many key causes T-Cellular labored so laborious in recent times to purchase the struggling service.

The corporate has labored diligently since closing the deal, shortly deploying its midband community throughout the US. The community now covers over 165 million folks with this sooner service, with a objective of reaching 200 million folks earlier than the tip of 2021. T-Cellular has mentioned that it expects common obtain speeds over the midband community to be between 300 to 400Mbps, with peak speeds of 1Gbps.

Whereas T-Cellular, AT&T and Verizon have loads of low-band spectrum, midband has beforehand been utilized by the army, making it a scarce useful resource regardless of its mobile advantages.

However that would quickly change. A Federal Communications Fee public sale earlier this 12 months made much more midband spectrum (generally known as C-band) out there for wi-fi carriers and all three main operators spent billions buying airwaves, with one other public sale with extra airwaves set for October. Verizon and AT&T were the biggest spenders within the C-band, and the expectation is that no less than one among them ought to start deploying 5G over these airwaves as quickly as later this 12 months with networks out there to be used early in 2022.

It is essential to notice that nobody band of spectrum is inherently higher or worse than one other. All three carriers have talked about incorporating all three sorts of spectrum for a extra complete community. 

Three 5G flavors, loads of completely different names

As you’d anticipate in an business that’s used to dominating the airwaves with commercials, there are a number of alternative ways carriers are referring to the completely different flavors of 5G. 

AT&T is the worst offender, with three flavors: 5GE, 5G and 5G Plus.


AT&T will use a 5G Plus indicator for its millimeter-wave 5G community. 

Logan Moy/CNET

5GE, brief for 5G Evolution, isn’t actually 5G. So no, your iPhone 11 ($599 at Amazon), Galaxy S10 or Pixel 4 that exhibits 5GE is not suitable with the brand new next-generation networks. 

The Nationwide Promoting Evaluate Board previously called for AT&T to stop advertising that it offers “5GE.” AT&T nonetheless, nevertheless, continues to make use of the icon on its units. 

The common “5G,” in the meantime, is actual 5G however solely on the low-band flavors. AT&T makes use of “5G Plus” for its millimeter-wave and upcoming C-band 5G networks. 

Verizon calls its present millimeter-wave 5G community “5G Extremely Wideband” or “5G UWB.” Whereas it is not as sophisticated as AT&T’s method, it may run into some confusion because of Apple’s embrace of the equally named Ultra Wideband technology in recent iPhones. Not like Verizon’s UWB, Apple’s model is not associated to mobile, however is a know-how used to seek out different equally geared up units. Apple’s version of UWB is what runs its AirTags tracking system

Along with the 5G UWB identify, Verizon calls its low-band providing “Nationwide 5G” with units exhibiting an everyday 5G indicator when related to this community. Like AT&T, Verizon will seek advice from its upcoming C-band midband community as 5G Extremely Wideband.

T-Cellular, which is the one service at the moment with a big midband community, beforehand saved issues easy with one identify: 5G. That modified, nevertheless, late final 12 months and it now has two names for the brand new wi-fi know-how: Extremely Capability 5G is the identify for its sooner midband and millimeter-wave networks whereas Prolonged Vary 5G is the identify for its low-band community. 

With iOS 15 the service has lastly determined to comply with its rival and can now present two completely different icons relying in your connection. A 5G icon will seem whenever you’re related to its low-band community whereas a 5G UC indicator will seem whenever you’re on a 5G telephone related to the midband or millimeter-wave 5G networks. | 5G Extremely Wideband, 5G UC, 5G Plus: Do not fall for the service advertising and marketing fluff


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